In Canada, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the province of Manitoba amid allegations that local government authorities are illegally denying the tribal gaming sector from opening any new casinos in the city of Winnipeg.

According to a report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the action is seeking combined general, punitive and aggravated damages of around $688.6 million along with court orders that would increase future aboriginal gaming market opportunities.

The CBC reported that the lawsuit, which names the province of Manitoba along with the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation regulator as defendants, is additionally asking for a court order that would see the Shark Club Gaming Centre in downtown Winnipeg forced to hand over revenues to a tribal trust along with an injunction on the opening of any new non-aboriginal gaming facilities in the provincial capital.

The broadcaster reported that the Shark Club Gaming Centre, which is owned by True North Sports and Entertainment Limited, received a gaming license in June of 2013 despite a 1997 report commissioned by the former Progressive Conservative government of Premier Gary Filmon calling for the establishment of at least five new tribal casinos. This policy was purportedly adopted by the ensuing New Democratic Party administration of Premier Gary Doer in 2000 but the subsequent years have seen only three such venues opened with none in Winnipeg.

“The Shark Club [Gaming Centre] takes up some if not all of the excess demand in [the] Winnipeg market for casino-style gaming,” reads the lawsuit.

The CBC moreover reported that the 41-page action from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, which represents some 63 tribal communities in the western province, is additionally seeking approval to relocate the Sand Hills Casino or some of its electronic gaming devices to a new property nearer Winnipeg. This 31,000 sq ft venue owned by the Sand Hills Casino Resort Limited Partnership enterprise of the Swan Lake First Nation opened near the small town of Carberry in June of 2014 but has since operated at a loss purportedly due to the government doing very little to help increase its viability.

The broadcaster reported that the lawsuit furthermore claims that provincial officials have also denied loan guarantee extension requests made by the Sand Hills Casino while increasing equipment costs, refusing multiple relocation appeals and declining to meet with representatives to discuss ways of resolving the venue’s financial problems.

In the action, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs reportedly declared that Winnipeg is ‘the only market in Manitoba where casinos can generate significant revenue’ and claims that the government has ‘kept the Winnipeg market for themselves and non-First Nation owners and relegated the First Nations to more remote areas in the province’.

“These were commitments made by the provincial government over and over again,” read a statement Arlen Dumas, the newly-elected Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. “Those commitments were broken and we are unjustly paying the price. It is time for this government to step up and work with us to create a real solution. We hope they will. If they refuse, we’ll continue to seek justice for this in the courts.”